Solving problems at the design stage.

Position:Tool Management: Getting Your Tooling Requirements Under Control

An area often overlooked for cost reduction opportunity is the design envelope of tooling, particularly in those "big ticket" items like plastic injection molds, aluminum and zinc die casting molds, progressive stamping dies, transfer press tooling and assembly fixtures, among others. Here's how Kwikset Corp's Mick Long describes the process.

These items are normally capitalized and depreciated over time. But the tools usually produce parts to net shape and typically cost $15,000-$65,000 or more and require several weeks or even months to procure.

As they proliferate, so does the need to manage them as a resource. The objective in this case would be to limit redundancy and exploit existing tooling investment and their respective spare parts (punches, inserts, core pins, ejector pins, etc) in the design phase.

Unfortunately, more emphasis is placed on justifying the purchase through preparation of the "authorization for expenditure" packet than developing design and build specifications.

Establishing a uniform design envelope can be a complex task; however, the cost avoidance of one capital tool acquisition or a 10-20% reduction in tooling investment can often justify dedicating resources to this tool management effort.

When should you start thinking about design of the tool? Probably in the initial product design stage, especially in concurrent engineering environments where communication begins early and typically includes input from all areas.

Simply grouping your products or tooling by physical features and/or common processes will move you in the right direction, since design usually governs tool interchangeability. Defining the right categories is very significant to the success of managing your tooling resource at this level.

Descriptions and nomenclature are also critical; settle on standard identifiable names like air cylinders, bushings, ejector plate, goosenecks, sensors, etc, that are universally recognized within that business segment.

(A special note: If the classification process is a meager effort, don't expect to reap the cost benefits. Too many companies take the "10,000-ft view" rather than rolling up their sleeves and getting greasy.)

Once you identify a commodity group, compare every item in that category for similarities in physical characteristics and...

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